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CUPE members at universities across Canada are questioning the decision by administration to sign deals with Navitas, allowing it to set up a private, for-profit programs on their campuses.

Navitas has been in Canada since 2006 starting at Simon Fraser University (SFU) and later entering a deal with the University of Manitoba (U of M) in 2008.

In April 2010, an external review of the SFU contract with Navitas was conducted. The review examined the extent to which “the qualifications and working conditions of FIC instructors are comparable to those of SFU sessional instructors.” On this point, the review noted that, “there is no provision for collective representation through an association or union.”

In Manitoba, a provincial bureaucrat left her job at the Council on Post Secondary Education and was hired by Navitas to run a private school on the U of M campus, as part of a confidential deal. As written in an article by the Winnipeg Free Press, the confidential deal between the U of M administration and Navitas has drawn criticism from faculty, students, members of the university’s board of governors and senate, who are upset that the university administration negotiated the deal without informing the campus community.

Navitas has pursued similar arrangements with McMaster University, University of Windsor and Dalhousie University. They are also pursuing a deal with Carleton University. We can only expect the pressure to grow as Navitas aggressively seeks new markets while its Australian base seems to be in decline.

Navitas, an Australian-based multinational corporation, describes itself as a leader in the development of educational services and learning solutions. They offer English language training, high school studies, university preparation, and university programs in eight countries. Navitas keeps its costs down by operating in public university facilities in Canada and hires casual staff to teach in the programs.

The University and College Union (UCU) in the U.K. prepared a campaign brief about Navitas, explaining how the firm operates. Experience with Navitas shows that although they may gain entry by offering preparatory course for international students, they later expand into other areas of study. Subsequently, they use each deal to sell themselves to other universities and colleges.

The June 18, 2010 edition of The Australian reports that shares in Navitas, the only listed education provider and Australia’s biggest private college, has outperformed the market which began tanking in April.

Navitas chief Rod Jones explains the company’s survival stating that,”In the U.K. we have had 180 per cent growth in (student) numbers in the past 12 months. There’s an element of students focusing on other jurisdictions, especially the U.K. and Canada. So what we lose on the roundabout we will pick up on the swings.”

For more information:

Read the External Review of SFU-IFC External Operations and the UCU campaign briefing on Navitas.